SEVERE WX : Freeze Watch View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Nobel physics winner criticized over controversial video

When Canadian Donna Strickland won the Nobel prize for physics this week, she was hailed for advancing...

Posted: Oct 5, 2018 7:33 PM
Updated: Oct 5, 2018 7:33 PM

When Canadian Donna Strickland won the Nobel prize for physics this week, she was hailed for advancing the visibility of women within the science. But video footage that recently emerged of one of her fellow winners suggests sexism may still be thriving in the field.

Now garnering thousands of hits online, the clip from 2010 shows Gérard Mourou performing alongside scantily clad women in a promotional video intended to showcase his work on laser technology.

Awards and prizes

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Demographic groups

Electronics

Females (demographic group)

Laser technology

Nobel Prize

Photonics and optoelectronics

Population and demographics

Science

Society

Technology

Physics

The French scientist was announced this week as one of three winners of the prestigious physics award. He and Strickland shared the 9 million Swedish kronor (about $1 million) prize with American Arthur Ashkin for their work in laser physics.

The announcement garnered much attention as Strickland became the first female physics laureate in 55 years. Her win came a day after the European nuclear research center Cern reportedly suspended Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University over comments that the discipline "was invented and built by men."

But while advocates for equality in the lab have been heartened by Strickland's win, the emergence of the controversial footage shows that Strumia's view may be more widespread.

Running to almost four minutes, the film is called "Have you seen ELI," a reference to the ELI Delivery Consortium, a European research collaboration that Mourou is credited with initiating.

The clip begins with a boy appearing to take an interest in optics. Viewers then see Mourou -- of the Haut college of the École Polytechnique near Paris -- teaching students in a classroom. A young female student flutters her eyelids at him to reveal a hidden message: "I love ELI."

'The alpha males of physics'

But the footage and Mourou's depiction as a sports car-driving alpha male is not the main source of controversy. What angered critics is a dancing scene where Mourou and two male colleagues are accompanied by women in lab coats and -- in some cases -- little else.

Two of the women can be seen dancing provocatively before eventually stripping off their lab coats to reveal tight-fitting tops and hot pants. The video was circulated by students and professors at the renowned French research institute where Mourou teaches and was seen in scientific circles.

It resurfaced this week after the Nobel prize announcement, thanks to Leonid Schneider, a German scientific journalist. He tweeted a link to his followers and later followed it up with an article he published on his For Better Science blog under the title "The alpha males of physics."

"Women scientists are really shocked because this is what they apparently experience in the science field," Schneider said.

"I wonder if he (Mourou) would still get the Nobel Prize if the Nobel Assembly were aware of this video.

"A Nobel prize winner should be a role model for other scientists, not just someone publishing many important papers."

Mourou released a statement Friday saying he was "sincerely and profoundly sorry" for the video.

"At the time that this video was made, the objective was to popularize the research being done within the framework of the ELI project and to break down the austerity that the field of science can sometimes transmit," Mourou said in a statement released by the École Polytechnique.

"It is important that the scientific community recognize the role as well as the importance of each and every researcher, regardless of gender."

Jean-Paul Chambaret, a friend and colleague of Mourou's who also appeared in the film, told CNN it was shot during Paris Ville Lumière, a big scientific event. He said the video came about after he and Mourou presented a project on laser technology to children at the event. It was intended to "present the research team in a humorous way," he told Le Monde.

France's National Center for Scientific Research is credited as a producer of the video, but a spokesman for the center told CNN that "management neither commissioned nor produced this film, which is solely the personal initiative of the researcher and his team. And our organization has never relayed this film. In addition, many CNRS people think it's an inappropriate way to promote science."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 39794

Reported Deaths: 627
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah8588154
Marion5509105
Washington538570
Umatilla326743
Clackamas294265
Lane212825
Malheur184733
Jackson15106
Deschutes106213
Yamhill94415
Linn74514
Polk63115
Jefferson5939
Morrow5406
Lincoln50813
Union4562
Benton4166
Klamath3973
Wasco33215
Douglas3164
Hood River2681
Josephine2572
Columbia2471
Clatsop2350
Coos2220
Baker1122
Crook832
Tillamook700
Curry561
Wallowa402
Lake350
Sherman180
Harney130
Gilliam110
Grant100
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 879645

Reported Deaths: 16982
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2893666877
Riverside640751272
San Bernardino597791021
Orange570711410
San Diego52735853
Kern33448410
Fresno30051429
Sacramento24425468
Santa Clara23355378
Alameda22738433
San Joaquin21187484
Contra Costa18157234
Stanislaus17341392
Tulare17120275
Ventura13901160
Imperial12475335
San Francisco11901133
Monterey1109183
San Mateo10810157
Santa Barbara9608119
Merced9314152
Sonoma8934129
Kings815983
Solano711774
Marin7019124
Madera488673
San Luis Obispo400932
Placer397852
Yolo307356
Butte301950
Santa Cruz270623
Napa188214
Sutter179612
Shasta172329
San Benito140314
El Dorado12834
Yuba125310
Mendocino110321
Tehama7748
Lassen7571
Lake67015
Glenn6393
Nevada5828
Humboldt5549
Colusa5456
Calaveras33317
Amador31316
Tuolumne2494
Inyo21515
Siskiyou1840
Mono1752
Del Norte1731
Mariposa782
Plumas540
Modoc270
Trinity230
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 49°
Brookings
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 72°
Crater Lake
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 34°
Grants Pass
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 46°
Klamath Falls
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 34°
Mostly sunny and warm Tuesday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events